Tuesday, November 29, 2005

# Posted 8:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALWAYS TRUST THE "WAR FIGHTING EXPERTS": No, I'm not done with Paul Hackett. The cocaine thing was just a diversion. The real issue is, as Hackett said on Hardball, the war in Iraq and the President who, according to Hackett, "didn't have the stones to serve in his generation's war":
MATTHEWS: Do you think President Bush as commander-in-chief would have been a better commander-in-chief had he served in combat in Vietnam?

HACKETT: I think probably most importantly what that would have allowed him to do is understand firsthand how the military process works and make him more aware of that.

I mean, it‘s not as though one simply sets a course without consulting with the war fighting experts. The war fighting experts are those in the Pentagon with the stars on their collars who consult with the battle experts in the field, who are usually colonels and lieutenant colonels. And they go through a very in-depth process of planning. And that took place leading up to Iraq.
This makes absolutely no sense. The "war fighting experts" in the Pentagon and in Iraq agree with the President there is no substitute for victory, but Hackett wants to bring the troops home as soon as possible. Or did Hackett mean to say that one should only consult with the war fighting experts when they say what you want hear?

The point I really want to make here has to do with the total incoherence of the chickenhawk argument (in which I obviously have a personal interest). If the chickenhawk argument has any meaning, it has to explain why those without military experience make worse leaders.

A generation ago, we were in the midst of another war in which the military had tremendous confidence but liberals (and numerous conservatives) didn't. At that time, liberals refused to defer to the military even though many of them lacked military experience of their own.

Now, liberals such as Hackett seem to be saying that civilians have the right to advocate peace but not war. Like all identity politics, this kind of argument ultimately rests on the rejection of rational decision-making based on evidence and ethics.

Both civilian and soldier alike should be free to support or oppose the war. Anything less would undermine the prospect of democratic deliberation.
(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

Hi David, I love the blog, though I disagree with your position, as I think will become clear ;) Glad you added the comments as well.

Let me preface this by saying that I think Paul Hackett is an idiot. And that his position on the Iraq war has been less than consistent.

However, I think that the chickenhawk meme can have useful force if one uses it based on a proposition and a limitation. The proposition is that the Iraq war was and continues to not be about winning in the so-called "War on Terror" and that the Bush administration lied to the public making its case for the war (ok, I guess that's two propositions). The limitation is that a chickenhawk be only someone who supported the war and actively avoided military service.

Thus, I don't think the term is applied to all civilians who supported and continue to support the war, but rather those in power who were so ready to send other people to die, under the cover of misrepresentation, when they themselves ran away from the same obligation.
All that the "chickenhawk" argument demonstrates is the intellectual cowardice of the people who use it. They have no coherent argument against the war, and therefore must resort to attacking the character of the people who support it.

But of course the character issue itself doesn't hold up under any sort of scrutiny -- partly because those making it can never really hide the fact that their side favored a fascist dictatorship over a democracy, and part because our society recognizes that soldiers are paid to fight when and how the civilians want them to. We don't say "only police and ex-police may speak in favor of new laws", we don't say "only garbage collectors can speak in favor of anti-litter ordinances", and we don't say "only veterans can support war".
Using the term "chickenhawk" is crude and unnecessarily dramatic. I offer the following statement in its place:

Had George W. Bush and Dick Cheney served in active duty during the Vietnam war, this experience may have fostered in them a greater respect and humility for all that can go wrong in the fog of war.
I am not upset by Hacket in the least of course I am not a fan of this conflict. I also think that service in a combat zone does offer a perspective of it that not all see.

I just wonder how people that support this will take an annoucement that will be much like what murtha called for by the Bush administration. If the leaks on the net are right it will be a phased pull out starting later this year. I am not sure on the leave it will hit. It just seems sorta funny to try and call everyone else for cutting and running then do it yourself. I am one to saddly believe that domestic politics and the GOPs low stock level is driving policy. I also think that it is what started them on this path at least some of them. I could be wrong we will have to see what he says in his speech. I imagine that their will be some careful retoric trying to walk the line ....
I stand corrected he didn't say anything.. No meat more platitudes, it is getting weak at least give us some measureable plan. I guess this is not politically good then if they miss it he loses the spin game.
I think on the whole the chickenhawk argument is not a solid one and can tend towards schoolyard level of insults - but some caveats.
Supporters of the war in the chattering classes made out the war to be a matter of life and death for this country but it was evident that they never even once contemplated joining up themselves. I never once saw an article by the most hawkish wondering aloud whether they should join up. It was obvious from the get go that this was a matter of life and death for other people to go and fight for.
Secondly, regarding the point that people who have seen war know something others don't. That is undoubtedly true. I personally think that people who know war know the sordid details of conflict, those sordid details that are often overlooked as a country prepares for war. People with no experience of war can tend to imagine war as something like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, clinically moral: a bloody battle between the good and the evil, but clearly distinguished lines. The truth is that in every conflict there will be Abu Ghraid's, there will be savage abuse of the population by both sides.
"If the chickenhawk argument has any meaning, it has to explain why those without military experience make worse leaders."

Fine. I'll take that argument.

In the case of Bush Senior and Bill Clinton, both LISTENED to their military advisors. Both built coalitions of more than just Mongolia.

Both Bush Senior who served and Bill Clinton who protested took the Viet Nam War seriously. Instead, Bush Junior was partying and Dick Cheney was going to business school. Both avoided the events of the day.

Bush and Cheney's status as chickenhawks goes to their character. Further, their avoidance of service and involvement has an echo in their later disengagement as leaders. Give a speech and hide.
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